Thursday, March 04, 2010

"Strewing," medieval English and the public domain

Someone generally involved in trying to discredit me, in changing the subject, used the term "strewing" in this way:
What other little gifts of romance could we strew?
I had been criticized on that list (not by everyone, by one strident het-up individual) for leaving links to my site. I don't have a tagline or sigline as many people do with a link to my site. It would be particular pages, for more information or examples on a particular topic.

When "strewing" was used, I wrote this:
And recommending "strewing" anything, while still badmouthing my site?
One person looked it up and reported this:
The word strew is in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, since, well before unschooling was placed in it. Dates before the 12th century, apparently! Who knew?
Main Entry: strew
Pronunciation: \ˈstrü\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): strewed; strewed or strewn \ˈstrün\; strew·ing
Etymology: Middle English strewen, strowen, from Old English strewian,
strēowian; akin to Old High German strewen to strew, Latin struere to heap
up, sternere to spread out, Greek stornynai
Date: before 12th century

1 : to spread by scattering
2 : to cover by or as if by scattering something (strewing the highways with litter)
3 : to become dispersed over as if scattered
4 : to spread abroad : disseminate
This made me half amused and half frustrated, which put me at balance, I suppose and I wrote:
-=-Dates before the 12th century, apparently! Who knew? -=-

I did! That's why I used it. Long years of medieval studies for fun.

In response to another clever comeback, about it being in the public domain of unschooling now:
-=-Also, you didn't invent the word "strewing" and as far as unschooling goes, that concept is kind of in the public domain at this point.-=-

It's pretty useful, isn't it? You're welcome. No one else used it before I did, so people who are working hard to discredit me might at least like to know that their public domain concepts came from me once in a while before they assure others that I have no good effect on unschooling.
A few times over the years someone has thought it was a word I made up. I tell them no, it's a really old word, but I brought it to describe leaving things in cool places where kids will find them. I never pretended it wasn't a real word, and I've known it since I was little, because it's in the Bible, in the parable of the talents (and maybe in Song of Solomon). It's in stories about castles. It has to do with throwing flowers or scented herbs around the floor of a room, or of broadcasting seed, or throwing coins into a crowd.

From The Big Book of Unschooling, page 35, under "Any Jargon?"
Strewing: literally, scattering something out, like rose petals or herbs or straw on a medieval floor. Figuratively, leaving interesting things out where they will be discovered.
No doubt my semi-public berating will continue a while. I guess I'm the most exciting thing in some people's lives. Poor people. I mean if it's someone in my family that's cool. If it's a stranger who never met me who's obsessed with me, that's a little bit creepy, but still I'll continue to do what I do with and for other unschoolers.

It's interesting to be someone other people would like to shush up. Someone from Australia told me there's a name for that, there. It's "the tall poppy syndrome"—anyone who sticks up, others will try to chop down. I don't think it's an admirable trait, in Australia, to do that. And part of the reason I "stick up" is that I use my real name online, and have for a long, long time. Others attack me with made-up names. People who are unwilling to use their own full names online try to hoot me down. Interesting, in a train-wreck sort of way.

The photo is from this morning. I was going to make Keith an omelet, and set one egg down where it wouldn't roll. Then I noticed how cute it looked there on that plastic scouring pad. It reminds me of Holly's photo "three round things," on her blog.


Bonnie said...

The first thing that came to my mind is anyone who thought you made up the word "strew" must not be southern *g* I remember lots of "please don't strew your clothes [or whatever] all over the house" growing up, and I'm only Kirby's age, so it's not even an old-timey thing, at least here.

I've never heard "strew" used as a good or thoughtful or intentional thing outside of unschooling, though. Same word, similar denotation, but different connotation. A new connotation is still a new idea.

Tracy said...

Keep up the good work, Sandra! :)

jugglingpaynes said...

That's interesting what you've said about strewing. I've strewn myself over the ten+ years I've been homeschooling, but I've called it "stealth teaching." Not exactly an unschool-y phrase, but I came up with it years before I realized that what I did was unschooling. :o)

I'm so sorry you are being attacked. It is sad that there are some who are so afraid of a different point of view they must lash out.

Peace and Laughter,

shepherdlass said...

It strikes me that if the person launching the attacks is resorting to etymology, they can't have many really valid criticisms. It seems such a non-argument. Of course the verb 'to strew' was around before you used it. But applying it to home life as a positive choice - to make things available -is a lovely, positive use of an old word.

"Bee", "loud" and "glade" are all public domain words but, used by Yeats, "the bee loud glade" is rather more than the sum of its parts.